Bridges of Life

Scripture: Acts 16:16-34, Romans 6:23, 1 John 3:8
Like the Philippian jailer, we all need to ask what we must do to be saved? The answer is in Jesus. There is a separation that sin creates between us and God. By acknowledging our sinfulness and coming to Christ, the Lord provides a bridge back to Himself. We must have faith and believe in what God can do for us.
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The story is told of two prisoners who lived in the first century after Christ who found themselves under the custody of the laws of the land. On the surface it appears that these men must surely be very dangerous. The account of their arrest and the subsequent sentence would lead us to wonder about them. They were stripped of their clothing and beaten in accordance with the law of the Roman government for their alleged crime. Then, since they were considered so dangerous, they were cast into the inner prison, doubtless some dungeon reserved for the most hardened criminals, but even that was not enough because the record says that they were then placed in stocks for safe keeping. It would surely seem that men in such circumstances as these would be very sad and dejected concerning their plight. But the actual truth of the story is quite different.

You may read the entire account in your own Bible in Acts 16. You'll discover that the record tells us that these men were singing and praying at midnight there in the inner prison. Yes, friends, these were dangerous men, but not in the common sense of the word. Their power was greater than the power of all men and of all governments of earth. These men were the personal representatives of the greatest government of all time, the government of heaven, whose head is the God and Creator of all.

Our story continues that while these men sang, suddenly there was a mighty earthquake. The prison doors swung open, the chains fell off the prisoners and escape was now possible. The jailer seeing the situation was about to slay himself, thinking the prisoners had all fled and he'd be responsible for it, but Paul stays the jailer's hand by telling him that all the prisoners are still there. The jailer comes in before these men of God. He realizes that he stands in the presence of men who represent a new way of life for him and he cries out with a question that men everywhere are still asking: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The answer is certain as it comes from the lips of Paul. Plainly and simply he says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." The question is simple. It has come from a deep heartfelt need, but the answer is likewise simple and uncomplicated. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."

As we open this chapter on the marvelous story of the controversy between Christ and Satan, we want to examine the question and the answer. First the question, "What must I do to be saved?" Friends, today we want to know this. From what does a man desire to be saved? Romans 6:23 tells us that "the wages of sin is death." But how can we be saved from death? This is the great basic question of life. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that sin has separated us from God. Thus we need to be saved from separation from Him. Sin has caused a great gulf between man and God. We need to find the bridge that can cross this gulf of sin, the gulf of death, the gulf of separation from God. But there's something else from which we need to be saved. We need to be saved from the power of sin, the hold that sin has over our lives every day. First John 3:8 says, "He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the work of the devil." And then Hebrews 2:14. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil." We need this power that will give us the power over sin in the life and the power over Satan.

Thus, when we ask the question, "What must I do to be saved?," we're asking first to be saved from death, then to be saved from separation from God and thirdly, to be saved from the power of sin in the daily life and habits. The answer comes back the same no matter where or when the question is asked, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Only Christ can save us from death, from separation from God, from the power of sin. He is the only One that can bridge the awful gulf of sin.

Did you ever stop to seriously consider what it means to believe on Jesus? There's a tendency in modern theological preaching to tell us that to believe in Christ is merely a work of the mental powers. We merely come to the place where we're willing to give mental assent to Christ. Perhaps we change a few of our ideas and readjust our thinking a bit thus giving mental allegiance to Christ alone. Now this is an important step, friends, we do need to change our minds from the natural thoughts to the thoughts of God and Christ, but far too often we stop right there. We say, "I believe." We may do certain things that reveal a change in our thinking, but too often we deny our belief by not going any further. In fact, the Bible says in James 2:19 that the devil believes in God. Now even a casual observer would admit that the devil is not going to be saved even though he does believe in Christ. The devil knows that Christ is right. He even knows that he is a lost cause himself. He knows that the coming of Christ is eminent and that his time is very short. All of these things are revealed in the Bible. Even though Satan believes all this, belief alone will not save him. Thus, we must surely see that unless belief is accompanied by more than theory, it is nothing.

Now let's look at an illustration that will help us understand the true relationship of our professing that we believe and our responsibility of putting these beliefs into action. In Luke 16:26, Christ mentions this great gulf of sin over which man cannot of himself cross. We recall that 1 John 5:12 tells us that there are two sides-one side leads to life, the other to death. On one side man has the hope of eternal life to come; he has the abundant life now, free from separation from God, free from eternal death, free from the power of sin. On the other side, man has no hope; his life is lived in sin, he suffers remorse and heartache of sinful deeds day by day; he faces the certainty of the judgment and the day when the wages of sin will be given to all whose names are not in the Book of Life in heaven.

Doubtless at some time in your life you, too, have had the frightening experience of being lost. Your surroundings for the moment were entirely strange to you. You didn't know which direction to turn and the more you tried to find your way to familiar ground, the more confused you became. Surely there is a great gulf fixed over which no man can cross. That gulf is the River of Death. We're lost, my dear friends, of ourselves in trying to find a way across that great gulf. Peter once said that there is only one name that can save us and that's the name of Jesus. Just before the birth of Christ, His mother was told that she was to call His name Jesus because He would save His people from their sins. The mysterious bridge, then, becomes no mystery at all. The bridge is Christ, for only Christ can bring the answer to the sin problem. This brings Paul's answer into sharp focus when he said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." There are seven points from the life of Jesus that we must consider in order to truly and fully believe on Him and be saved.

We'll call the first of the seven piers of the mysterious bridge, came-CAME. Paul says, "But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son." Galatians 4:4. At just the right time when the world situation was ready, when the time-clock of heaven had come to the right moment, Jesus came into this world of sin and rebellion. His coming was not accomplished by His appearance on the streets of Jerusalem and announcing that He was the Son of God. Surely He had the power and ability to appear in the form of men, coming quickly from heaven in such a manner, but in order for Him to fully pay the penalty of sin and in order to meet Satan on his own ground, Jesus was to affiliate Himself fully with men and their problems. You see, friends, Jesus must fully take the place of man and only then could the full wages of sin be paid. His coming then, as He did, being born of human flesh, allowing His every need to be supplied at the hands of human parents, growing as any baby and little boy grows, experiencing the problems of boys and youth, then of all mankind, provides the remedy and full answer to all of man's problems.

But Jesus must do more than just come, great miracle that it was, He must also live-live. His life was ever after to be an example in all things for all men. As we study His life recorded for us in the first four books of the New Testament, we find how He reacted to different situations in His life; situations, by the way, that were just as real as our own are today. In Hebrews 2:9 we read that He tasted death for every man. That certainly includes you and me, does it not? Yes, friends, it includes everyone who will fully believe and accept Jesus. Now it's obvious that Jesus was not the first man to ever die.

The world was now some four thousand years old and men had been dying since the entrance of sin. It is significant that Jesus is not the first man to die on the cross for the cross was the means used in those days of putting all criminals to death for specific crimes against the government. Thus we must see that it's not merely the fact that Jesus died nor even that He died on a cross that made Him our Saviour. The difference is that when He died, He was not only man but God as well. This was God's gift to man. Jesus died without ever even once surrendering to temptation and thus He became the first and only man ever to live an absolutely perfect life. In life He had conquered every snare of the devil. He had proven to Satan and to the entire universe and to man on earth that God is not unreasonable and that God did not set an impossible standard for man. When on that Friday afternoon so long ago our Saviour died, He forever proved that Satan was a defeated, conquered foe. His death had paid the full and complete price of sin and the power of Satan over men and life and death was fully broken.

Well, we go on, friends, to think of the resurrection of Jesus. It tells us that He arose in Matthew 28, and by His resurrection, Jesus unlocked the grip that Satan had held over the grave. As He had proved His power over Satan in life, so now He proved Himself the victor over the grave. Because He arose we know that no grave where one who believes in Christ is ever so sealed, but will be opened up again and Christ will bring him forth to life again. The work of Christ was not completed at His resurrection. The fifth pier in the bridge of Christ is called, ascended. Oh yes, my friends, Jesus arose; He ascended back to heaven, and then the Bible tells us that He mediates there for us at the right hand of the Father.

He's our high priest, our attorney, if you please, by which we may present prayers and by which Christ intercedes for us before the Father. And then the final pier of this great bridge over the River of Death is, returns. It's the second coming of Jesus to this earth again. The Bible says that every eye will see Him when that happens. He's coming in glory and power and all the angels in heaven will be with him at that time. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 it says that the trumpet will sound, the graves will open, and Christ will bring forth the dead. What a day that will be, friends!

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